In-game metaverse marketing still growing, says Karta

Colin Campbell, Friday, August 25th, 2023 12:04 pm

Karta is a London-based creative marketing agency that’s working to place huge brands like Amazon, Unilever and McDonalds inside interactive spaces in games like Fortnite and Roblox. The company is also working with entertainment brands in sports and music, such as the announcement this week of a deal with K-pop band Blackpink, to create Roblox-based fan hub Blackpink the Palace (pictured),.

GameDaily spoke to CEO and co-founder Erik Londré about the current state of marketing in game metaverses, and the company’s vision for the future.

GameDaily: How did Karta come into being?

Erik Londré: I’ve spent a lot of my life organizing events, and making people have fun, for companies outside games, and more recently, for esports organizations. I became a huge Fnatic fan, and worked for them organizing events and experiential marketing, like after-tournament parties. It was super-cool and I loved it. I could see that this is where the culture is at its most exciting and I had to be a part of it.

One of Fnatic’s partners at the time was the Italian coffee brand Lavazza. I had this idea to create a Fortnite map for them – this was before brands were doing this kind of marketing. It would be an Italian themed, coffee-focused map. One of our biggest Fortnite players streamed himself playing the map.

It dawned on me that every brand would want to be inside of the world’s most popular video games. It aligned with my belief that more and more of our time is going to be spent in these digital metaverse spaces. These are the social places for the younger generation. They aren’t places where you go to have fun on your own, but to join with friends and to make new friends. It’s where you can express yourself and your individuality.

I quit my job. My co-founder Tony Barnes and I started talking to brands. We somehow managed to land Unilever as our first client, and we made a Roblox game for them based on a shampoo brand. Our next client was a very famous soccer club in England.

From there we’ve been growing out our Roblox studio. The work has been coming in very fast, and it’s getting busier. We’ve started our own Fortnite studio, using all the superb new tools and the revenue model offered by Epic.

Our vision for the future is that every brand, every artist, every sports club had to figure out YouTube and Tik-Tok, and now they’re figuring out games like Roblox, Fortnite, and others.

GameDaily: What’s the secret of a good gaming metaverse brand experience?

Erik Londré: The key thing is authenticity. Don’t try to change who you are. I see a lot of brands coming into the platform and trying to make themselves too cartoonish, instead of focusing on their strengths, and on the player having fun through game design knowledge that we know creates engagement and success.

Brands also need to understand that these platforms are huge, with thousands of options for players to choose from. They should focus on finding a niche that will attract players and engagement, instead of trying to be liked by everyone, which is impossible.

GameDaily: If I’m a coffee brand or a shampoo, what is my definition of success in these spaces?

Erik Londré: Every brand is different and every activation is different. But I see brands going into these activations with clear ideas about what they want to achieve. It’s not usually about hard engagement numbers. Sometimes it’s about generating PR or goodwill or brand awareness or building a kind of monument that expresses your values.

We did a Roblox game for Ronald McDonald House, and it was only for the kids who actually stayed at their house, and their friends. The success wasn’t measured in visits or play time, but about creating a narrative about making a virtual house where these kids can have fun with their friends.

I see people in the game industry think that an activation has failed because its engagement numbers fall off after a while, but these brands aren’t thinking about individual placements in terms of longevity, the way a game publisher might. They think in terms of campaigns, and something that might be quiet now, could well be viewed by the marketing team as a great success, because it drew interest at launch.

GameDaily: What’s the trajectory at the moment in terms of marketers and their relationship with Metaverse experiences? It seems like it was something that was perhaps hotter a year ago than it is now, or is that an overly negative media narrative?

Erik Londré: It’s 100% a media narrative. To give you some context, it’s ten times hotter now than it was when the media was talking about metaverse marketing every day. Brand activations on Roblox are double this year, over last year.

The brands and artists that we’re working with don’t care about the latest LinkedIn hype and madness. They care about reaching people and engaging with them in meaningful ways.

GameDaily: Tell us about the new Fortnite studio?

Erik Londré: We’ve always loved Fortnite as a platform, and with the fantastic new initiatives we’ve seen from Epic, it’s becoming more like a creative, user-generated content opportunity.

UEFN [Unreal Editor for Fortnite] gives us an opportunity to create many different types of video game experiences. It’s basically making a whole new gaming platform. Epic’s super interesting new monetization system helps to promote the creator economy even more. It’s extremely exciting.

Brands can do really exciting things, not just making great games but partnering with exciting IP via the Fortnite platform, and that’s one of the things we’re working on.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell has been reporting on the gaming industry for more than three decades, including for Polygon, IGN, The Guardian, Next Generation, and The Economist. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.